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Comput Struct Biotechnol J. 2019 May 9;17:638-644. doi: 10.1016/j.csbj.2019.05.001. eCollection 2019.

A Viral T7 RNA Polymerase Ratcheting Along DNA With Fidelity Control.

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Beijing Computational Science Research Center, Beijing, 100193, China.
Shanghai Center for Systems Biomedicine, Shanghai JiaoTong University, Shanghai 200240, China.


RNA polymerase (RNAP) from bacteriophage T7 is a representative single-subunit viral RNAP that can transcribe with high promoter activities without assistances from transcription factors. We accordingly studied this small transcription machine computationally as a model system to understand underlying mechanisms of mechano-chemical coupling and fidelity control in the RNAP transcription elongation. Here we summarize our computational work from several recent publications to demonstrate first how T7 RNAP translocates via Brownian alike motions along DNA right after the catalytic product release. Then we show how the backward translocation motions are prevented at post-translocation upon successful nucleotide incorporation, which is also subject to stepwise nucleotide selection and acts as a pawl for "selective ratcheting". The structural dynamics and energetics features revealed from our atomistic molecular dynamics (MD) simulations and related analyses on the single-subunit T7 RNAP thus provided detailed and quantitative characterizations on the Brownian-ratchet working scenario of a prototypical transcription machine with sophisticated nucleotide selectivity for fidelity control. The presented mechanisms can be more or less general for structurally similar viral or mitochondrial RNAPs and some of DNA polymerases, or even for the RNAP engine of the more complicated transcription machinery in higher organisms.


Fidelity control; Nucleotide selection; PPi release; RNA polymerase; Translocation

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